My Last Duchess by Eloisa James

November 20, 2020
Would you say yes?
Pondering. Have you ever really, and I mean really, thought about marrying a stranger? I have become so accustomed to a happy ending in romance novels, that sometimes I forget that in a lot of these books, the romantic couple are virtual strangers. Let me put this another way. What would you do if you were sitting in your car/truck/carriage, minding your own business, when a complete stranger jumps in? He then announces that his intentions are honorable. Okkkaaaay. As of today, I would probably spray mace in his face, scream, give him a swift kick, and run. Why am I saying this? Well, my little Petunia’s, it dawned on me while reading this book, that my beloved romance novels sometime require me to overlook reality. But, sometimes it’s all about taking a break from reality. Remember what Dumbledore said, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” I don’t think that quote has anything to do with the romance genre, but if you are in the mood for a little light, relaxing book, then My Last Duchess is for you. And, it’s a short story, so it’s just a few hours of your time.

My Last Duchess is Eloisa James’ prequel to the Wilde series. Yes, this is the story of Hugo, the Duke of Lindow, and Lady Ophelia Astley. You remember Hugo, don’t you? He’s the guy with eight children. A show of hands please! Who out there would react the same way? A stranger hops into your carriage because he wants to marry you…and he has eight kids!!! OMG! Feet, don’t fail me now! Watch as I run in the other direction.  This is one of those times I had absolutely no problems with the heroine turning down a proposal.

Anyway, Hugo has recently received his divorce papers. He’s sort of moping around the house, feeling sorry for himself. Then his sister shows up and drags him into the world. She forces him to see that the youngest of his eight children need a mother. So, he is off to once again marry. Soon he’s hanging out in a ballroom. Then he spots “the-one-who-is-meant-to-be” from across the room. Evidently, love at first sight is a Wilde family tradition. He instantly maneuvers through the crowd; wanting to meet the woman who has captured his eyes. But alas, she has vanished. He gives chase. And, it turns out to be a very delightful chase.

Ophelia is comfortable. She’s happy with her life. She had a contented marriage, now she’s a widow. Her husband was a nice man, and he left her well-endowed. Ophelia also has a young daughter. This child is the center of Ophelia’s life. She finds everything about her child amazing. Ophelia is pretty pleased with her life. You might call her one happy camper. She is definitely not looking for anything else. Then, at the ball, the hairs on the back of her neck start to stand up. She looks across the room, and finds a very handsome man staring at her. There are sparks behind that intense stare, and she wants nothing to do with them. She quickly flees the party. But she hadn’t planned on the snow storm outside, nor her carriage being stuck in a traffic jam. She also had no idea the intense man would turn out to be Sherlock Holmes. Well, he’s not really Sherlock Holmes. Hugo, it seems, has some of Sherlock’s abilities. He is able to deduce which carriage is hers based on his observations from the ballroom. I loved the carriage scene, and the one night stand which follows. Then he proposes. Then she turns him down.

This was a fun romance, and Ophelia and Hugo were a great couple. Were there a few hiccups? Yes, there were some things I could have done without. After Hugo’s proposal is turned down, he decides to court another woman, an older woman. This woman was rather rude, and why Hugo thought she would make a good mother was beyond me. She disliked children immensely, and I felt Hugo should have been more aware of that from the beginning. I mean, if he’s bright enough to find the correct carriage, he should be smart enough to spot a cold, dispassionate female. Even though I wasn’t fond of this female character, I also wasn’t fond of the “funny” bullying which was used to get rid of her. I thought either Hugo should have told her it wouldn’t work, or she should never have been part of the book in the first place.

There was one more thing which threw me out of the story, and I argued with myself about whether I should even mention it. The slang term “that’s cracked” was used at one point in this story. When I read it I stopped, and retraced my steps. While I pondered whether someone from Georgian times would use that slang, I decided to move on. I did spend some time trying to find references to that term. Who knows, since Ms. James teaches Shakespeare maybe it is legitimate. I just wish authors would tread lightly on using slang/expressions.

Overall, except for a few minor gripes, I enjoyed this book. I thought it was a wonderful love story. Both Ophelia and Hugo were great characters. I had no problems with Ophelia taking her time deciding on whether she should marry Hugo. Regardless of how handsome, and wealthy Hugo was, there were a number of obstacles which would trouble any woman/person. But in the end, Hugo was just too much of a great hero for any smart woman to resist. I do recommend this book, and for a short time you will find yourself in a happy place. Pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate, butter some homemade muffins, wrap yourself in a fuzzy blanket, and enjoy.
Time/Place: Georgian England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot


No comments: